The Navy indeed was asked to "minimize the visibility" of the USS John S. McCain when President Trump was in Japan last month. "However, all ships remained in their normal configuration during the President's visit," Rear Adm. Charlie Brown said in a statement Saturday, per Politico. When planning for the president's speech on the USS Wasp, the Air Force and Navy had received an email saying, “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight," the Wall Street Journal had reported. Sen. John McCain, who died in 2018, is a frequent target of attacks by Trump; the destroyer was named for McCain's father and grandfather, and the senator's name was added just before his death.
Patrick Shanahan, the acting secretary of Defense, said that he knew nothing of the directive before the Journal report and that he "would never dishonor the memory of a great American patriot like Sen. McCain." Trump had tweeted Wednesday that he didn't know, either—though he later told reporters that whoever made the request was "well-meaning." The ship's sailors, whose caps bear the McCain's name, were given the day off when Trump arrived, per the Journal. In his statement Saturday, Brown said, "There were also no intentional efforts to explicitly exclude Sailors assigned to USS John S. McCain." (Mitt Romney says he can't understand Trump's attacks on McCain.)